An instructable robot is one that accepts instruction in some natural language such as English and uses that instruction to extend its basic repertoire of actions. Such robots are quite different in conception from autonomously intelligent robots, which provide the impetus for much of the research on inference and planning in artificial intelligence. Examined here are the significant problem areas in the design of robots that learn from vebal instruction. Examples are drawn primarily from our earlier work on instructable robots and recent work on the Robotic Aid for the physically disabled. Natural-language understanding by machines is discussed as well as in the possibilities and limits of verbal instruction. The core problem of verbal instruction, namely, how to achieve specific concrete action in the robot in response to commands that express general intentions, is considered, as are two major challenges to instructability: achieving appropriate real-time behavior in the robot, and extending the robot's language capabilities.